How to Take Down Goliath
Entrepreneur|January - February 2021
The biggest companies can still be taken down by the smallest startups. Here are four strategies disruptors use to fight their way up.
By Hamza Mudassir

You think it’s hard getting to the top? Try staying there.

The accelerated churn rate of the S&P 500 indicates that at least half of today’s top U.S. companies will get replaced by someone new over the next decade. That is a mind-boggling market value of $13.5 trillion up for grabs. And the craziest part is who replaces the old market leaders: It’s often companies that, just a few years before, were considered scrappy little startups.

So how does a new company rise to slay a giant? It doesn’t happen by accident. Think of these upstarts as if they’re playing a deliberate game of chess—except in this case, the incumbent has been playing the game for years, and the startup is entering the game halfway through. That means the startup is at a severe disadvantage, and normal competitive strategies just won’t work.

To unseat a champion, a smaller company has to play by a completely different set of rules.

In my many years of working with successful disruptors, as well as researching the same at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, I have seen a lot of companies lose this game…as well as a lucky few win it. Here are the four moves that I’ve seen have the highest chance of success for those aspiring to take down Goliaths.

1/ Change the basis of competition.

For startups, the rules of the game are rigged. The larger incumbent has set the terms of the competition, and its scale, experience, and technology are nearly impossible to beat.

Consider every brick-and-mortar retailer that went up against Walmart in the 2000s. Walmart’s basis of competition was its ability to sell consumer goods at the lowest possible prices, and it accomplished that profitably because of its remarkable hub-and-spoke distribution model and large, centralized procurement budgets. Other retailers could not catch up…until Amazon.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM ENTREPRENEURView All

Stop Working, Start Automating

Why waste your energy on tedious tasks when an app can do them instead?

2 mins read
Entrepreneur
January - February 2021

START YOUR YOUTH MOVEMENT

Young franchisees keep brands relevant with millennial and Gen Z customers, and with decades of career growth ahead of them, they can help bring long-term growth and continuity to franchise companies. So why don’t we spend more time courting them?

5 mins read
Entrepreneur
January - February 2021

A Bank That Keeps Things Simple

It’s not nuts – The 18-year-old coin bank on Casilimas’ desk.

2 mins read
Entrepreneur
January - February 2021

High Hopes For CBD Franchising

Plagued by misinformation and poor regulation, the CBD industry is banking on brick-and-mortar franchise shops to build confidence with cannabis-curious customers.

5 mins read
Entrepreneur
January - February 2021

This Year Will Be Great. Really

After months of forced closures and record-high unemployment, the U.S. is ready for an economic recovery—and the franchise industry is uniquely positioned to lead the charge.

4 mins read
Entrepreneur
January - February 2021

How to Take Down Goliath

The biggest companies can still be taken down by the smallest startups. Here are four strategies disruptors use to fight their way up.

5 mins read
Entrepreneur
January - February 2021

Your Secret Weapon: Great Expectations

The year 2021 may feel uncertain, but set your expectations high anyway. Doing so will become your guiding force.

3 mins read
Entrepreneur
January - February 2021

The Beauty of Being Rejected

I thought my idea to shake up the book industry was brilliant. Investors didn’t. That ended up being my greatest asset.

3 mins read
Entrepreneur
December 2020

Can There Be Two Tinders for Clothes?

She was a first-time founder with a fresh idea. Then a $30 million competitor arrived.

3 mins read
Entrepreneur
December 2020

Getting More from Less

Everyone has been forced to cut back in some way—but limitations can lead us to even greater growth. We asked six entrepreneurs: What unexpected benefits have you gotten from change?

2 mins read
Entrepreneur
December 2020
RELATED STORIES

Then They Came For The Lawyers

Twitch co-founder Justin Kan has raised $75 million for his attorney-rental company

3 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
September 23, 2019

Arma un equipo de buenas personas

El 16 de septiembre de 2018 recibió el Premio Lemelson-MIT 2018, el reconocimiento en efectivo más grande por invención de Estados Unidos.

4 mins read
Entrepreneur en Español
Diciembre 2018

Meet the Entrepreneurs Reinventing the Health Care Industry

Stashed away in the Byzantine language of the Affordable Care Act are rules that have caused a Big Bang-size explosion in health care startups - led by founders who will reinvent the health care industry.

10 mins read
Inc.
April 2016

Lyft To Uber: The Race Is On

Lyft has been eating Uber’s dust for years. Can a series of smart partnerships steer the “nice” ride-sharing startup into its own lane?

10+ mins read
Fast Company
April 2016

Can GE Become a Software Company? CEO Jeff Immelt Is Determined To Find Out

Jeff Immelt’s plan to turn around GE is finally working.

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
March 21 - March 27, 2016

The Next Steve Jobs

Many entrepreneurs and their backers will tell you they're playing the long game. But no one's doing it quite like Theranos's Elizabeth Holmes.

10+ mins read
Inc.
October 2015

The 1099 Bind

The most valuable startups in America call their workers independent contractors. Courts are starting to say they arent. If your on-demand company must treat workers as employees, can the gig economy survive?

10+ mins read
Inc.
November 2015

How To Navigate The Dreaded Tech Bubble

Anyone paying attention knows what it's called. But no private tech investor dares speak the word, for fear of triggering the beginning of the end. We break down the stakes for companies trying to grow during the tech...boom, bulge, barbell, or whatever you'd like to call it.

10+ mins read
Inc.
September 2015

Bill Clinton On The Importance of Entrepreneurship

No president has, upon leaving office, launched himself as vigorously into supporting entrepreneurship as Bill Clinton. Both the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative have created programs to fund and mentor hundreds of entrepreneurs at home and abroad. In a wide-ranging interview - on everything from electric car charging stations to the proper role of banking regulation - the 42nd president shares with Inc. his vision and priorities for business leaders in the 21st century.

10+ mins read
Inc.
September 2015

Beyond Roommates - Apartments For Startups

Krash and other startups take the coworking phenomenon to its logical, intimate extreme.

4 mins read
Fast Company
July/August 2015